I’m a Tech man, and at MIT, rings are big. Basically, you get a ring. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re from the hippie, hacker, or frat-boy subcultures. You get a big square “brass rat” and then pretty much wear it all the time. I followed suit, wearing a stainless steel version (“steel rat”) nonstop until I lost it. I had a gold one too but I just didn’t like the idea of wearing a big chunk of valuable, dense, malleable (but non-elastic) metal all the time. Gold is stupid stuff to make jewelry out of, although I suppose silver (since it tarnishes) is even worse.

Anyway, being well indoctrinated with the idea that school==ring, I was attracted to the idea of getting one for Harvard too. There was a problem, though. Unlike MIT, Harvard has an open market for class rings, and three different vendors competing for the class’s business: Ringware (“the officially licensed class ring”), Herff-Jones (“the exclusive provider of traditional and contemporary ring styles for Harvard students”), and Balfour (“the only Harvard University class ring officially sponsored by students”).

The competition among providers has a nice free-market feel to it, but in practice it greatly damages the popularity of the ring. If everyone’s ring is the same, their sentimental value (and practical recognizability) are greatly improved. Nonetheless, I forged ahead. My finger itched from the missing ring, and I hated to wear a ring for one school but not the other.

In the end there was no competition at all. Of the rings on offer, only Balfour’s was designed by students with input from the administration (including my graduate school), sponsored by a student organization, and available in stainless steel (all as with the Rat, which they also manufacture). Aspirationally, being the third contender, they named it the One Ring. (This puts Harvard on Sauron’s side; I suspect it’s less than half joking.)

The saleslady claimed otherwise, but as far as I know I am the only person ever to combine the selfless academic devotion and personal vanity required to order a PhD One Ring. Thus, this may be the only One ever made, in (IIRC) size 7.5, medium face:

One Reply to “Ring”

  1. You’re not the only one.
    Having also lost my undergrad ring, when I finish my PhD, I want one of these, too.

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